Canon T1i / 500D vs Nikon D5000

by Enche Tjin on May 20, 2009

The years 2008-2009 is a war between dSLRS manufacturers in incorporating video mode in dSLR cameras. It all started with the launching of Nikon D90 and Canon 5D mark ii in Fall 2008. This year (2009), Canon and Nikon continue the war with the introduction of entry level DSLR cameras that have video mode. They are Nikon D5000 and Canon 500D / T1i.

canon-t1iBeside the development of video mode, other features are also improved such as resolution of lcd screen, articulated lcd screen and also improvement in noise handling and new interface design which is friendlier to beginners.

Which is better? Canon T1i or Nikon D5000?
Let’s check the differences between the two cameras by looking at their specifications

Advantage of Canon T1i / 500D

  • A slightly bigger viewfinder (0.87x dibanding to 0.78x)
  • 15 megapixel (compare to 12 megapixel)
  • ISO up to 12800
  • 14 bit image processing vs 12 bit
  • Vertical grip available (optional)
  • Bigger LCD screen 3″ vs 2.7″
  • Higher LCD screen resolution (920.000 pixels vs 230.000 pixels)
  • Up to 18 minutes video recording time vs 5 minutes
  • Able to record full HD video 1080p at 20 fps.
  • Compatible with all Canon EOS lenses, while Nikon D5000 only compatible with AF-S dan Sigma HSM lenses (you can still use the lens but the lens will not auto focus)

nikon-d5000-swivel-lcdAdvantage of Nikon D5000

  • Articulated LCD screen
  • Faster continuous shooting (4 fps compare to 3.4 fps)
  • Have 11 auto focusing points compare to 9 auto focus points
  • Have a taller body and better ergonomic
  • Have 19 scenes mode that is popular for beginners.
  • Cleaner image at ISO 800 and above

Analysis based on my experience and observation
Higher resolution of Canon T1i does not mean that the image quality of Canon is better. Instead, the high image resolution might be a problem especially on image storage. Big resolution camera also need a better lens to get advantage of the size of sensor, but sometimes, big resolution can help if you like to crop photo. For example when you don’t have time to compose photo such as shooting sports.

Higher ISO up to 12800 does not mean that image quality at that level will be acceptable. Usually, ISO 3200 is a maximum ISO setting to get an acceptable image quality.

Differences in auto focus points also is not significant because the distribution of coverage of the auto focus points are almost the same.

So what is the significant different between Canon T1i and Nikon D5000?
In my opinion, features related to video is the significant different. Nikon D5000 has an articulated lcd screen. This feature make user easier to record video or taking pictures in awkward angle. But since D5000’s hinged is on bottom instead of left like Olympus E-620 or other superzoom camera, when using tripod, the lcd screen might be blocked with tripod legs.

On the other hand, lcd screen of Canon T1i is slightly bigger and significantly more detail and sharp. This feature is important to check if the focus is on the spot. Other than that, Canon T1i is able to record video up to 18 minutes, while Nikon D5000 can only record up to 5 minutes. For some people, 5 minutes maybe long enough, but I think 5 minutes is quite limiting.

Canon T1i can also record full HD video but only at 20fps. Video will not smooth, so this is not a signficant advantage from Nikon D5000.

Other interesting things that worth to mention is the availability of scenes mode in Nikon D5000. Scenes mode in Nikon D5000 are many more than Canon T1i. The scenes mode are very popular for compact cameras or superzoom camera users.

So which is the best camera?
If we only look at the specification, Canon T1i or Canon 500D is better than Nikon D5000. But, if it will be depend on each individual needs.

For example, if you want to use live view like compact camera, so Nikon D5000 is more exciting because it has articulated lcd screen, and its auto focus can track moving object in live view. If you like to use live view like compact camera, Nikon D5000 is a better choice. But for digital SLR camera who are more experienced. Canon 500D might be a better option because the viewfinder is bigger.

We should also think about lens compatibility. Nikon D5000’s auto focus only work with Nikon AF-S lenses (built-in AF in lens). Although many new Nikon lens has AF-S, but many great Nikon lenses in the past does not have AF-S such as Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D which has a great price and great image quality for portraits. You can still use AF-D lens like 50mm f/1.8D, but you have to manual focus.

For users that already have several lenses, I suggest to consider buying a camera with the same brand, because the differences between the two cameras are not significant.

Other than technical matter, emotional factor is also very influencial on buying decision. For example, you might find that Nikon D5000 is better to handle, or you like the interface aand the placement of the buttons and dials of Canon.

In conclusion
For compact camera users that want to move to DSLR, Nikon D5000 may provide better transition than Canon T1i. On the other hand, if you have experience in using DSLR and want to experiment with recording video, Canon 500D maybe a better deal. These cameras are designed for beginners and both of them are giving a good value than its predecessors.

Update: 06/10/2009
DXO Mark evaluates Nikon D5000 and Canon 500D, the result: Nikon D5000 outperforms Canon 500D in color depth, ISO sensitivities and dynamic range.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sergio January 6, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Better Nikon D90 than Canon 500D

Ime Ekpo April 13, 2010 at 9:34 am

Hello,
I will like to purchase your Canon T1i / 500D and i will like to know the last offer price and if you accept check for the payment.

Regards
Ime

Enche Tjin April 13, 2010 at 11:15 am

I don’t sell camera. Check out Amazon store.

Top Rated Cameras December 23, 2010 at 3:57 am

Wonderful review! I recently got my Nikon D5000 kit lens and after a month of using it. I thought of getting the D90 instead. I haven’t actually tried to use a D90 but with it’s other features that a D5000 doesn’t have, I think it is okay for an upgrade. I am planning to sell my D5000, do you think it’s worth it?

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